The South Sydney Rabbitohs have overcome a keen and emotional Wests Tigers side, the Bunnies recording a 32-18 win on a night where the hosts farewelled Benji Marshall at Allianz Stadium in front of 14,891 fans.
Tonight's clash started in stunning fashion and on paper it looked like a foregone conclusion, but it started as anything but. Sam Burgess was sin binned in just the fourth minute for a professional foul as the Tigers got straight on the front foot. It didn't take long for the home side to capitalise, with two Wests Tigers tries in the first ten minutes delivering them a 12-0 lead.
Burgess returned to the field in the 14th minute but the Rabbitohs defence was still sketchy and re-forming a minute later when a wayward bomb led to a Ben Murdoch-Masila try and put the Tigers up 18-0.
The Rabbitohs eventually gathered themselves and a pair of tries in the final ten minutes of the half saw them claw back twelve of the eighteen points scored against them. Adam Reynolds finished off a neat backline move on the right side for their first before Dylan Farrell pounced on an unfortunate bounce for Lote Tuqiri just before the halftime siren.
Souths went on with the job in the second half, first levelling with a try to Sam Burgess before a penalty goal saw them sneak in front by two. Tries in the final ten minutes to tryscoring freak Nathan Merritt and a second Burgess brother in Luke extended the Rabbitohs' advantage and has set up a salivating final round clash for the minor premiership next Friday night against the Roosters at ANZ Stadium.
For the Tigers it was a sad and emotional way to farewell five-eighth Benji Marshall in his final home game. Their attention will turn to their final round clash in Townsville, ironically against the Cowboys - the club against whom Benji orchestrated the Tigers' 2005 Grand Final victory.
Wests Tigers 18 South Sydney Rabbitohs 32
Venue: Sydney Football Stadium
Halftime Score: Wests Tigers 18-12
LeagueUnlimited.com Players of the Match:
3 points - Adam Reynolds
2 points - Luke Burgess
1 point - Benji Marshall
WESTS TIGERS (18)
Tries: Tim Simona, James Tedesco, Ben Murdoch-Masila
Field Goals: Braith Anasta (0/1)
Conversions: Benji Marshall (3/3)
SOUTH SYDNEY RABBITOHS (32)
Tries: Sam Burgess, Adam Reynolds, Dylan Farrell, Nathan Merritt, Luke Burgess
Field Goals: Adam Reynolds (0/1)
Conversions: Adam Reynolds (5/5)
Penalty Goals: Adam Reynolds (1/1)
LeagueUnlimited.com Live Commentary
Tigers: 1. James Tedesco 2. David Nofoaluma 3. Bodene Thompson 4. Tim Simona 5. Lote Tuqiri 6. Benji Marshall 7. Braith Anasta 8. Keith Galloway 9. Robbie Farah 10. Adam Blair 11. Liam Fulton 12. Curtis Sironen 13. Ben Murdoch-Masila
Interchange: 14. Ava Seumanufagai 15. Jack Buchanan 16. Shaun Spence 17. Matt Bell
Rabbitohs: 1. Greg Inglis 2. Nathan Merritt 3. Bryson Goodwin 4. Dylan Walker 5. Dylan Farrell 6. John Sutton 7. Adam Reynolds 8. Luke Burgess 9. Issac Luke 10. Roy Asotasi 11. Chris McQueen 12. Ben Te'o 13. Sam Burgess
Interchange: 14. Luke Keary 15. Jeff Lima 16. George Burgess 17. Thomas Burgess
Sam Burgess is sent to the sin bin.
Four minutes and a Burgess brother has been Sin Binned! The Tigers were rolling upfield off repeated breaks, and big Sammy was holding a player down too long. Professional foul and Perenara & Haines have no qualms marching him for ten minutes.
Scored by Tim Simona. Conversion attempt by Benji Marshall successful.
We have a green light - decision overturned! Simona has gotten the ball down before Inglis took off with it in a strip. Marshall converts.
Here we have Jared Maxwell's video referee audio: "In the act of scoring the South Sydney player has committed a strip which the Tigers player has reclaimed. Play on, enough evidence to overturn the on-field decision and award a try."
Wests Tigers 6-0
Scored by James Tedesco. Conversion attempt by Benji Marshall successful.
WOW! Anasta shifts the play right and the man-short Rabbitohs can't handle the fluid passing... it finishes with Murdoch Masila drawing the last defender and Tedesco takes the spoils. Marshall converts!
Wests Tigers 12-0
Scored by Ben Murdoch-Masila. Conversion attempt by Benji Marshall successful.
A bomb goes up and it's not controlled by South Sydney... MURDOCH-MASILA HAS IT! He's scored!!!! What's going on here? Marshall converts it and it's, yes, 18-NIL to the Tigers.
Wests Tigers 18-0
Scored by Adam Reynolds. Conversion attempt by Adam Reynolds successful.
The Rabbitohs score down the right channel with Adam Reynolds getting the visitors on the board. Is the start of a Bunnies comeback? Reynolds reduces the margin to 12 with the conversion.
Wests Tigers 18-6
Scored by Dylan Farrell. Conversion attempt by Adam Reynolds successful.
That's a cruel bounce for Lote Tuqiri... it's evaded him at the last gasp and Dylan Farrell is there to clean up the mess! Adam Reynolds converts the try and it's only six points the gap at the break!
Wests Tigers 18-12
Scored by Sam Burgess. Conversion attempt by Adam Reynolds successful.
Sam Burgess with sheer determination and they won't stop him. He slams it down. Reynolds converts to equal the ledger. 18-all.
SUCCESSFUL PENALTY GOAL South Sydney Rabbitohs
Penalty goal attempt by Adam Reynolds successful.
Benji Marshall penalised for a strip 40m out from his own line. Reynolds makes no mistake to put the Bunnies two in front, their first lead today.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 20-18
Scored by Nathan Merritt. Conversion attempt by Adam Reynolds successful.
Issac Luke bursts through the middle of the ruck, draws the last man and puts Merritt through for another try. Souths are flexing the muscle now. Reynolds converts.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 26-18
Scored by Luke Burgess. Conversion attempt by Adam Reynolds successful.
Another Burgess scores, Luke busting through this time, and Mrs Burgess goes nuts up in stands. Reynolds converts and this now looks dominant for the Bunnies.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 32-18
Field goal attempt by Adam Reynolds unsuccessful.
Long range field goal attempt from 45 metres for Reynolds........... hits the crossbar! No dice.
South Sydney Rabbitohs 32-18